Snow squalls in the Northeast last weekend led to traffic accidents involving 18-wheelers, as well as a multihour shutdown of Interstate 81 in eastern Pennsylvania. Snow squalls are brief but intense bursts of heavy snow, strong winds and whiteout conditions that often reduce visibility at the drop of a hat. They can also cause roads to become icy. These are a few quick safety tips for truckers to follow when encountering these storms.
The National Weather Service issues warnings for snow squalls “where the highest threat of rapidly changing visibilities are the most likely to occur.”
Because these storms usually develop quickly, it’s important for truckers to have at least one reliable weather app installed on each of their mobile devices. The warnings trigger alerts on the apps, which should be set to “location” or “GPS” mode. This ensures that the apps “follow” drivers, posting the alerts no matter where drivers happen to be along their routes.
What to do during a warning
If a snow squall warning is issued, the NWS urges drivers who are parked to wait until the storm clears before getting back on the road. Truckers who are driving when the warning pops up should try to exit the road as carefully and as soon as possible. Find the nearest safe place to park until the storm fades.
When exiting isn’t an option
If drivers are unable to exit during a snow squall warning, they should slow down gradually. Turning on headlights and hazard lights makes trucks and trailers as visible as possible to other motorists. Stay in one lane, increase following distance and avoid slamming the brakes.
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Before hitting the road, truckers should always check with state transportation and highway patrol departments regarding possible commercial vehicle restrictions. Sometimes certain highways are off limits to big rigs for periods of time when extreme winter storms are forecast.
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